Sammy to Big Z: Hold off on retirement talk

Sammy to Big Z: Hold off on retirement talk

CHICAGO -- Sammy Sosa knows all about life after baseball, and planned on reaching out to Carlos Zambrano to remind him that once you retire, "it's a whole different ballgame."

Sosa, 42, who played 18 seasons in the Major Leagues, including 1992-2004 with the Cubs and was a teammate of Zambrano's for his final three seasons with the club, said Wednesday he planned on calling the Cubs pitcher, who is currently on the disqualified list. Zambrano served up five home runs to the Braves last Friday in Atlanta, was ejected from the game after throwing inside to Chipper Jones, and then packed his gear in his locker and said he was retiring.

On Monday, Zambrano changed his story and said he wanted to stay with the Cubs, saying his comments about retirement were made in "a moment of frustration." The team placed him on the disqualified list, used when players violate the terms of their contract or of the collective bargaining agreement.

Sosa also had an early exit from the Cubs. On Oct. 3, 2004, he left the last regular season game early and without permission, and was subsequently fined by Cubs general manager Jim Hendry.

He didn't retire, though, and was traded to the Orioles for Mike Fontenot, Jerry Hairston Jr. and a Minor League player. Sosa played one season with Baltimore and another with Texas in 2007 before retiring.

He now lives in Miami and the Dominican Republic, and said he prepared for life after baseball during his playing days. Sosa's last game was Sept. 29, 2007, and he finished with 609 home runs.

"Players think that when they sign a contract, everything is easy," Sosa said Wednesday. "When you retire and you try to do something besides baseball, it's not easy. It's tough. When you think everything is going to be the same and so easy as when you played baseball, it's not that way anymore. I want to make sure [players] understand that. I want to speak to a lot of players. I want to tell them to save their money.

"I see a lot of players make all their money in baseball and when they retire it's a mess," he said. "They surround themselves with some bad people. There's so many bad people outside waiting to get their money.

"That reaction [on Friday] cost [Zambrano] $3 million," Sosa said. "Maybe he doesn't need it now, but later on he will. That's money he worked hard for all his life."

Sosa now has other businesses, including oil companies and housing projects. He also operates a baseball academy in San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, and the Cubs have signed two players from there -- second baseman Jeffry Puente and outfielder Randher Valdez. Both are playing in the Dominican Summer League.

He's excited about a nephew, a right-handed-hitting outfielder, whom Sosa said has "more potential than I had."

"He can fly -- he's amazing," Sosa said proudly of his brother's son. "What a talent -- another Sosa."

Whether the youngster has the potential to hit 60 homers or win a National League Most Valuable Player award -- which his uncle did -- remains to be seen. The youth is only 16 years old.

Until then, Sosa will act as mentor, and try to do the same for Zambrano and others thinking about leaving the game.

"All my friends retire, and if they didn't take care of their money, they go back to being a coach," Sosa said. "It seems to me if they don't know how to do anything else, they become a coach. They have to plan for their future and career after baseball.

"When you retire, it's a different ballgame," he said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.